Anybody from Dover knows how important our high school football tradition is. It’s a weekly battle for bragging rights. A can’t miss chance to gather in the stands with, oh, 30 or 40 percent of the town, roughly speaking. The 30 or 40 percent with gusty lung power and hearts that pump crimson… and grey.
Friday night. 7:30. The marching Tornadoes kick it off, after a raucous pregame parade through downtown, with their famous take-the-field cadence: ba-rum da-da dum da-da dum-dum-DUM. The beats echo off the stately brick walls of Crater Stadium. A cheer goes up and the band jubilantly high-steps onto the field.
How many fight songs must a football-mad school in Ohio possess? Oh, I know I’m spoiled, but I’d say at least two. And they must be original. Ours were “Dover Victory” — which sounds in the pregame march across the field and from the bandstand in the west end zone after every home touchdown — and “Crimson Tornado” (Crimson Tornadoes, go, go, go / Crimson Torandoes, blow, blow, blow / Right down the line / Gain every time / Let us remind you / we’re all behind you). My favorite, though, was our original Alma Mater, penned by L.H. Alexander. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Alexander when he was nearly 100, or maybe even past it. I played him my jazzed-up rendition of his stately tune, and he sat at the piano a few minutes and played for me.
Yes, the band would salute the American flag with the national anthem before exiting the field and leaving the team to its battle. (The team would run on just before that, down a tunnel made on the field by the band and to the strains of “Football Hero.”) But for me, the highlight is bouncing L.H.’s majestic chords off the home side stands, and all assembled standing and singing along.
Dover football is a proud tradition for the Foutzes, in particular. At least three generations have suited up for the Crimsons and then the Tornadoes, with a few winding through the ranks of the band as well. (Can you tell which I did?) Tales of their exploits are legend, particularly in the annual regular season finale with hated rival New Philadelphia. But no one’s star shone brighter on the field than that of my grandfather Don Foutz.
The above picture comes from 1930 when he was a junior — I think — on the same team with some Dover legends, including the great multi-sport star Doc Kelker. Grandpa would get the chance to make his name legendary in his own right. Grandpa launched booming punts deep into opponents’ territory, recording record numbers. But his greatest glory came in his senior season, running the football. In the 1931 Dover-Phila game, Don Foutz rushed for 220 yards, setting a record that stood until 1998! As of 2001, it was still the sixth-best single-game performance in Dover football history. Grandpa Foutz also owned the eighth-best single-game rushing mark in Dover history, with 209, set earlier in his senior 1931 season.
The above picture comes from “Dover,” a book by a former Dover classmate — and hey, confirmation classmate at Dover First Moravian Church, too, if I recall correctly — Matt Lautzenheiser. It’s part of Arcadia books’ Images of America series. You can check out a preview of some classic shots from the Dover Historical Society’s archives at Google books, and follow links at that site to purchase the entire volume.
The below shot is of the 1929 Dover squad, when grandpa would have been a sophomore — I think. I’m kicking myself for burying my collection of Denny Rubright’s writings on Dover football. That’s where the below shot came from.